Food safety is a key priority for the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, founded in 2008 by dairy farmers through their checkoff. The organization allows the dairy community to collaborate proactively on issues that are important to the industry and its customers, including health and nutrition and the environment.

The Innovation Center’s latest resource, an online course offered in partnership with North Carolina State University, is geared toward artisan and farmstead cheesemakers, who represent a growing segment of cheese production. More than a thousand U.S. processors are helping meet consumer demand for these cheeses. To reach and support this cheesemaking community more effectively, the Innovation Center said it partnered with the American Cheese Society, along with academics, retailers and small dairy manufacturers, to establish the Artisan Food Safety Advisory Team.

The Innovation Center said it will be offering the online introductory course, “Food Safety for Artisan/Farmstead Cheesemakers,” through the end of 2017. It includes five interactive segments focused on the importance of food safety, food safety hazards, preventive controls, regulatory considerations and product/environmental monitoring.

“The Innovation Center’s Food Safety Committee is a great example of how farmer, processor and manufacturer organizations can work together on common priorities,” said Barb O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Dairy Management Inc., Rosemont, Ill. “This kind of collaboration on issues that transcend competition is critical to building confidence and trust in U.S. dairy.”

The Innovation Center has offered food safety workshops for U.S. processors multiple times a year since 2011. More than 2,800 industry professionals have been trained on the latest advancements to continuously improve the quality and safety of dairy products. These training activities are staffed and funded by dairy processors, the Innovation Center said.

“We know that artisan and farmstead products represent a growing segment of cheese production in the U.S., and we want to share effective tools that can make these business owners be successful — and safe — at their craft,” said Jeremy Travis, vice president of quality and technical services at Hilmar Cheese Company Inc. and chairman of the Innovation Center’s food safety committee.

In addition to the workshop, the Innovation Center consolidated self-study resources, guides and tools on a new website, O’Brien said a nationwide workshop where artisans can receive coaching while they draft their own food safety plans is in development.

More information can be found at